Escalating “standards” for butchers and abbatoirs threaten local meat providers

Thanks to author Pam Killeen for drawing this story to our attention. It’s from the Stratford Beacon Herald:

Ken (Butch) Mogk is more than a little worried that the application of stricter food safety regulations at the abattoir he and his father operate in Oxford County will force them to close. Story and picture by DONAL O'CONNOR The Beacon Herald

“The owner-operators of Mogk’s Custom Killing and Butcher Shop south of Tavistock are awaiting a crucial meeting Monday with a food safety inspector they fear could close them down.

Ken Mogk, 73, who has been operating his small abattoir for 20 years, said if he is required to do all of the things a food inspector is demanding he will have no choice but to go out of business.

“They’ve got us over a barrel,” he said. “There’s never been a problem here. The meat going out the door is 100 per cent. It can’t be improved. And to make us spend all this money is not going to improve the product going out the door.”

Mogk’s culls and butchers animals for farmers like Bob Passmore in St. Marys, an organic meat supplier, and Kevin McComb from the Mitchell area, who supplies restaurants in Stratford and markets his own lambs.

The Mogk plant also kills hogs for the Best Little Pork Shoppe in Shakespeare.

Mr. Passmore, who produces certified organic meat at his St. Marys area farm, said he has been dealing with Mogk’s since 1998 and he is pretty demanding about what he wants when he sends animals to be culled.

“It’s not easy to find a good abattoir around this area. They have been honest and fastidious and they do everything I require,” he said.

“If they are forced out of business, I guess then I’m out of business.”

Meat from Mr. Passmore’s farm, butchered at Mogk’s, supplies The Gentle Rain in Stratford. “That’s probably my biggest customer,” said Mr. Passmore, who also supplies beef to Westover Inn in St. Marys.

Mr. Mogk and son Ken (Butch) Mogk Jr., 48, said their last audit indicated they would have to increase the lighting in their kill room and get rid of wood panelling in an office connected to the butcher shop. That’s not all.

A long-used smoke house may have to be completely converted to stainless steel — something Mr. Mogk said would have to be chemically cleaned and that won’t fit with the requirements of organic meat producers.

A stainless steel table that has a spot-welded top also did not pass muster with the inspector. And painted steel shelving used to store meat products contained in plastic bins is supposed to be replaced with stainless steel shelving.

“They just nitpick everything,” Mr. Mogk.

Supporting the Mogks at their facility earlier this week were a group of six other butchers who either have faced or are facing audits, or follow-up orders, that could cost them thousands of dollars to comply with.

“Our cries for help have fallen on deaf ears,” said Alan Blumn, former owner of Krug’s Meats in Tavistock.

“It’s not the consumers complaining,” he said.

The regulations that are scaring area butchers haven’t come up overnight.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs began phasing in standardized safety regulations at food processing facilities in 2005, starting with larger facilities.

Small-scale facilities were phased in under the new inspection and licensing rules starting in the fall of 2008 under the regulations that stemmed from Justice Roland J. Haines’s review of Ontario’s meat inspection and regulatory regime in 2004.

“Everybody’s afraid of the next audit,” said Bob Yantzi who currently operates Krug’s Meats.

The worry right now is that ever more rigid audits by food inspectors are forcing butchers to spend bucket loads of money to meet the regulations or risk being shut down.

Mr. Yantzi said he has spent $150,000-$250,000 so far to upgrade his premises.

Steve Rudy, owner of Rudy’s Meat Market in Hickson, operates a meat stall at the Stratford Farmers Market. He was among the butchers meeting at the Mogks’ and said he would have to spend $125,000 to upgrade.

“I think the consumer has to know what’s going on,” he said. “They (the inspections) are just getting ridiculous and soon the consumer won’t have a choice,” he added.

Mr. Rudy said he knows of six or seven meat plants currently up for sale — his own included.

The butchers said they have taken their concerns to area politicians including MPP John Wilkinson in Perth-Wellington and MPP Ernie Hardeman in Oxford County, but their complaints have had no effect.

The problems that have inspired the regulations have had nothing to do with the quality of product from smaller abattoirs and butcher shops, the butchers said. They wouldn’t be in business if their customers weren’t satisfied with their meats. Mr. Mogk said his father-in-law had been smoking meats on the farm since 1937 and “never had a bad piece of meat out of there.”

“What has been OK from 1937 to 2005 is not now OK,” he said, his voice rising in volume.

It seems each time the inspectors do an audit they want more changes, he said.

“They’re just putting the boots to us. You would think we are a criminal … that you’ve done something wrong all your life.”

The abattoir had been classed as an “A” plant, the Mogks said, but under the latest audit it has been dropped to “C.”

The local butchers pointed out there are broad implications if small abattoirs close their doors. It will eliminate opportunities that currently exist for local farmers catering to niche meat markets and it will impact the whole movement — supported by the Ontario government — to eat locally and support the local rural economy.

Wayne Herlick, a pork and beef producer who farms near the Mogk abattoir, noted the overall effect the closing of local butcher shops would have.

The butchers need to gain the support of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the Ontario Cattlemen’s Association and the advocates of buy fresh, he said.

“How the hell are you going to do it (eat local) when all the little guys are gone.”

Mitchell-area sheep farmer Kevin McComb was surprised to learn Friday that Mogk’s could face closure. The implications for him would be severe, he said in a phone interview.

In the summertime he has two or three lambs per week butchered at the Tavistock-area abattoir and he has been supplying restaurants in Stratford with product. He also operates a shop at the Stratford Farmers Market and he said he has been planning to expand production.

“We have depended on them for butchering for a year and a half. We market all our lambs directly to consumers and to restaurants in Stratford or at the farmers market.”

Mr. McComb said he has been completely satisfied with Mogk’s and there aren’t any other abattoirs within the 40-minute drive it takes him from Mitchell.

“We really need them there,” he said.

Brent Ross, spokesman for OMAFRA’s food inspection branch, said licensing of the final group of meat processing facilities began in the fall of 2008 when inspections and licensing of smaller facilities — those handling 500,000 kilograms or less of product annually — were phased in….”

Read the rest of the story on the Beacon Herald website.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Escalating “standards” for butchers and abbatoirs threaten local meat providers

  1. Common Sense

    Its all about control….to push vaccinated gmo fed meat that has weak cells that will rot and is bad..when will people wake up and take back control..all “gov’t” that are making up these rules to protect themselves are supposed to be public servants..not rulers!
    Lets all go to jail and start our own backyard butcher….only those with land will survive.

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  5. james mcewen

    yes i have worked in alot of big shops and presently work in a large facility now and U would not belive the things i see CFIA does not care about the product and i think therd just tryin to fase out the small guy and let the big guys run the show…..not right at all

  6. Yvonne

    It is very disappointing that we pay taxes for a government that pays lip service to health and local eating. We have easy access to junk food, vaccines, medication but traditional ways of processing food is apparently not good for us. Hmmm where is the commonsense in that?

  7. Mike

    Welcome to Big Brother and relentless administration in a government that is spinning out of control and in free fall regarding common sense.
    I’m a master chef and trained butcher but would not be certified to butcher meat for public consumption as I do not work in a abattoir or certified butcher shop. I have field dressed virtually every indigenous species in Canada and would not be allowed to serve any of it to any of my restaurant customer’s.
    I am HACCP trained, Food Safe, Proton and numerous other useless certifications pending the reality I am a Certified Journey man red seal Cook and Master chef for thirty years which has no clout in this new world order of rules ahead of common sense and practical knowledge because every day on the job with any food or health inspections people is always your first.
    I have empathy for every small business owner out there that in spite of doing it right and never having a complaint has to listen to some University grad with a Microbiology degree and absolutely no clue what a butcher or chef actually does for a living. Yet now has been empowered to literally police owners out of business simply to prove how much smarter they must be since they have a degree and some Health Unit specified training. I have several friends who have been inspectors for generations and they not only work with operators but know the business and they stay focused on what is realistic and sustainable rather than book smarts and rigid rule enforcement even in the face of their being no need to enforce some of the code in all instances.
    So in closing I intend to go back farming and [snip] keep those inspection varmints off my property and worst case scenario I will cull and eat all my own beasties with the help of a few of my good friends to eat it all, most likely will need them to sign a waiver in case an inspections person query’s their dinner selections once they leave my property.

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